Messi mania upset for young Hackney footballers

International star arrived for kick-around at home of Sunday league football

YOUNG footballers have spoken of their disappointment after Messi mania caused their star-studded kick about on Hackney Marshes to be called off yesterday afternoon (Wednesday).

The Fifa World Footballer of the Year Lionel Messi was mobbed by fans as he flew into the spiritual home of Sunday league football by helicopter at about 4.30pm as part of an Adidas promotion.

He was supposed to come on as ‘the best sub in the world’ in a game between year 10 sides from Hackney secondary schools, The Bridge Academy in Laburnum Street, Haggerston, and Cardinal Pole Catholic School in Kenworthy Road, Homerton.

Cardinal Pole were winning 2-1 when Messi arrived but he was greeted by so many fans that he was taken away in a security van after about ten minutes - before he could even get his boots on and join the match.

While some fans were delighted to get balls and shirts signed by Messi even amid the melee, Joseph Glasgow, a Bridge Academy pupil, was gutted as he was going to partner the star in central midfield.

He said: “It would have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I think I could have shown him a few skills and tricks.”

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Other fans were left mystified by his speedy exit.

“I only got here a few minutes ago, what’s happened?” asked Toby Abiola, 16, from Millfields Estate, Lower Clapton.

“He’s one of my favourite players. I like his speed. I liked his performances in the World Cup as well, even though he didn’t win it.”

Simon Purrier, the head of Physical Education at Bridge Academy, who was watching from the sidelines, said: “We’re disappointed of course.

“It would have been nice for the team to get to play with him but a lot of people turned up who weren’t supposed to.

“It had been an alright game. We’ve had lots of good games in the past with Cardinal Pole. He was going to come on for one of our players, Brendan Trinh.”

Hackney Marshes was the first of three ‘mystery locations’ in London Messi was set to visit.

Adidas posted clues on social networking site Facebook as to where he might appear.

A spokesman for the sports giant said: ““We are delighted that Lionel Messi touched down at Hackney Marshes. Unfortunately he did not play as a sub as planned because of the enormous interest from his fans. Messi’s safety is our paramount concern and he has now moved on to the next location.”

Messi later whizzed off to the Olympic Stadium and gave away free boots in Brick Lane.

But youngsters selected to play in a 5-a-side game at a private pitch near Mansford Street in Bethnal Green were again disappointed when the star failed to turn up.

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